It's 1959, and the Price family are getting ready to travel from Georgia to their new home in Congo. They pack everything they think they will need to make this huge transition much more smooth. Many of the items the Prices take with them are strictly unnecessary—such as thimbles and cake tins—but they can still be put to good use; and besides, they will act as sentimental reminders of the life they're about to leave behind.
When the Prices touch down in Africa, they're greeted at the airport by two Belgian missionaries—Reverend and Mrs. Underdown—who fill them in on what to expect once they get to the village of Kilanga, which will be their new home, and where they will be the only Westerners. The Prices then board another plane, this time bound for Kilanga. The plane is piloted by a man called Eeben Axelroot, who as well as being rather unfriendly, in due course turns out to be quite a devious character indeed.